Oh Censorship. Whatever would the world do without you? Oh, I know. Exist.
I was first introduced to Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson) in 8th grade. It was a gorgeous spring day and my school let out around noon. Since it is common knowledge that I’m a voracious reader, past teachers have handed me new arrivals and had me read them before anyone else. On this day in eighth grade, my then-Language Arts teacher handed me Speak.
On that nice spring day, I opened the windows in my room, curled up on my bed, and finished the book in an afternoon. I was enthralled.
Speak was the first book we read in ninth grade English. I remember everyone enjoying it, except for Melinda, the main character. I related to her– even others see it. I understood her emotions, even though are pasts are about as different as night and day. Despite the means it took, we both felt ostracism, and loneliness. I understood Melinda in a way that no one else in my class seemed to understand. Perhaps that is why I enjoy the book as much as I do.
I’m not going to talk about the view of rape as soft porn. Others have talked about it more powerfully and eloquently. I highly disagree with him, and the view of sex and rape in our society (I should mention now that I’m currently reading Burgess’ Clockwork Orange, the movie version of that book being banned in some places in the past for spurring on rape). I have a lot of problems with our sex-obsessed culture (and not in a healthy way), but my thoughts on it are scrambled and too long for this entry.
I am the girl who relates to the ostracized victims. I related to Melinda. While I hated feeling out of place in my class, I wouldn’t change that experience for the experience of never having read the book. I support the freedom of voices, even if I strongly disagree with what they say. Who we are is greatly influenced by what we hear and read. Having read Melinda’s story, I have absorbed her emotions, her strength, her will to survive into myself. I am Melinda. And she is me.
Everyone has a book they relate to, that they feel the most connected to. To block books and not allow people to discover who they are is a shame. Even if it is supposed “filth,” every book has a purpose, whether it be to show us what to do or what not to do. Everything is influential.
This is how I feel about literature. And I cannot by any means condone censorship in any way. I have to stand up for books, even if it is by reading them, recommending them, and bringing instances of challenges and censorship to others’ awareness.
And now, on a positive note, here is the power of Speak. My friend who read that book in 9th grade English is teaching it this year to her 8th grade students. Despite the naysayers, the power of a good, influential book can always overcome the obstacles.
That, and challenging books makes kids want to read them more. I know I wanted to read all of the banned books when I was in middle and high school.